Robin Parrish’s Offworld came at an odd moment. Specifically, it followed Vanish, which had a similar "Where did everybody go?" idea and a mystery munchkin, and The Enclave, which featured a Special Forces character and a nagging, incomplete memory of something Really Important that takes nearly the whole story to re-emerge. There are a number of differences, as well; suffice it to say that I wish I'd read the books further apart.
In 2033, the first expedition to Mars is returning home. They lose radio contact with Earth about halfway back, which means among other things no annoying ads and celebrity gossip.
There is much rejoicing.
Unfortunately, they keep getting the silent treatment, even when they need to dock with the space station or just head down to Earth on their own. They prepare for the worst, and a good thing, too: the whole ship, most of which was never meant to operate in an atmosphere, decides to find out where all that gravity is coming from. The crew is saved from annihilation only by all jumping out the door the second before the crash. This is, of course, impossible. And it's not the last thing that is.
But let's look at the crew:
Commander Chris Burke is the leader. He has this strange, partial memory of the time he nearly died on Mars. Since no one thinks to take a plumber's friend to his brain, it takes quite a while for him to remember what really happened.
Trisha Merriday is the Woman. She's a lot of other things too, but since they appear to be the last humans on Earth, her presence in the crew means that at least none of the guys will have to learn to dance backward. Civilization is saved! What a pity she has a heartbreaking crisis....
Terry Kessler is the Kid Who is Sure to Freak Out. The scene at the bottom of page 165 and top of 166 is great: "Have you lost your mind?" "Nah,...but this ought to do it."
Owen Beechum is the Smartest, Baddest Guy on the Planet. He finds Schwarzenegger and Stephen Hawking on the beach and kicks sand in their faces. Okay, he wouldn't do that, because he's a nice guy, despite having a mysterious and lethal past.
Mae is--okay, she isn't in the crew, and no one seems to know where she came from, Mae included. (She has more of a backstory than a past.)
So our stalwart band heads for Houston, where someone left the mother-in-law of searchlights running. If they can get there, they may discover the solution to the baffling mystery--or at least turn the light off before it runs up an even worse bill.
But along the way, they face horrifying disasters that let them know that someone doesn't like them, and they begin to realize that maybe they aren't alone after all. Someone is trying to keep them from reaching Houston! Who could it be? Probably the guys from the power company, already drooling over the thought of the next bill they'll send out.
Tomorrow, a look at some of the strengths of Offworld. In the meantime, check out the rest of the CSFF blog tour:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
1 year ago